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Gary Lawrence
Urban Strategies Leader, Arup, Seattle
"What do you care what other people think?"

Successful urban places are political choices supported by data: they are not the accumulation of data. A translation factor between the information collected and the people who need it is required. The real purpose of any city should be to optimize conditions for human development over time. Because major infrastructure systems that support urban development have such long life spans, coupled with the reality that the future is random, not determined, one of the key issues for urban planning is the capacity for adaptation. A city’s ability to adapt is intrinsically linked to the political necessity of getting its citizens to consider the future as something to be embraced, not feared.


Gary Lawrence is Arup’s Urban Strategies Leader, providing thought leadership on sustainable strategies for urban development throughout the firm’s global offices. Gary drives Arup’s vision to create communities of the present and future that address human need and environmental limitations, seeking to optimize conditions for human development over time. Gary’s work has a strong focus on public policy and the factors that influence behavioral change, such as aspiration, fear and nostalgia.In the 1990s Gary was Planning Director for the City of Seattle where he led development of “Toward a Sustainable Seattle,” the first sustainability-focused municipal comprehensive plan in the world. National and international recognition of his work followed and Gary has subsequently served as advisor to the Clinton Administration's Council on Sustainable Development, the UN’s Habitat II, the US Agency for International Development, the Brazilian President’s Office, the British Prime Minister’s Office, the European Academy for the Urban Environment in Berlin, and the Organization for Economic and Community Development (OECD) (Paris) on matters of sustainable development and environmental policy. Current initiatives include membership of Futurama 2050, a committee convened by the Presidential Climate Action Project in collaboration with the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Regional Plan Association, to create better public understanding and support for the leaders, public and private, who are shaping the policies and investments that will guide the transformation to a green, post-carbon society. Gary is also part of the Rocky Mountain Institute’s “10-XE” initiative to re-define engineering education, The Delta Project to re-think the development of campuses of all types and he is involved with the Resilient Coasts initiative to create a blueprint for addressing sea level rise in the US. He was also a co-chair of the World Urban Forum’s private sector initiative. Gary’s speeches and publications have formed the basis for the development of much of the current thinking on sustainable development. Gary is actively involved in the local and national chapters of the Urban Land Institute, the American Planning Association, and the US Smart Growth Leadership Council. He serves as Adjunct Professor at Huxley College of Environmental Studies at Western Washington University. Arup is a global firm of designers, engineers, planners and business consultants delivering innovative and practical solutions to challenges in the built environment. The firm has no external shareholders and is owned by Trusts established for the benefit of staff and charitable purposes. This independence enables the firm to shape its own direction and take a long term view. Arup’s core values drive a strong culture of sharing and collaboration. Founded in 1946, Arup has some 10,000 staff in 90 offices in 35 countries around the world.

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